Pita bread is the perfect, soft, fluffy companion for dozens of meals and cuisines. This timeless flatbread hails from countries across the Middle East, Mediterranean and Northern Africa. Today, pita bread is popular worldwide. Pita bread is simple to make and requires just a few, staple ingredients. This naturally vegan flatbread is great for dipping into hummus, adorning mezze platters, wrapping a gyro sandwich, or sopping up warm, spiced soups and stews. Pita can also be a great on-the-go meal stuffed with falafel or deli meats and cheeses. Furthermore, fresh pita can be baked into crisp chips for snacking or crumbling over fattoush-style salads.
Fresh baked bread is always better than the store-bought stuff and this versatile recipe is sure to become a favorite in your own kitchen! Check out this post for our favorite pita recipe and all you need to know (including tips, tricks and troubleshooting) to achieve Perfectly Puffed Pita Pockets at home!
How to Make Flavorful Pita Bread from Scratch
The best part about pita pockets (besides the intoxicating smell of fresh-baked bread) is that it only takes a few, common ingredients. In fact, chances are you have everything to make fresh pita at home right now! This recipe calls for flour, water, yeast, olive oil, sugar and salt. The key to getting full-flavored pita is to create a quick, 20 minute sponge that helps bread develop flavor. (Read more about sponges below!) Then, mix that sponge into a dough. After that, knead the dough for a few minutes and let rise. Once doubled in size, portion the dough into six or eight pieces. Next, let your portioned rounds of pita dough rise again, roll thin, season to your heart's wildest desires and watch them puff in the oven in just 2 - 3 minutes! How sababa! (Israeli slang for "cool" or "awesome")
What is a Sponge?
When baking bread, a "sponge" refers to a simple pre-ferment process. It may sound technical but, let us assure you, it could not be any more simple. Basically, the dough's yeast is mixed with warm water, part of the recipe’s flour, and a sprinkle of sugar. Once mixed, the sponge is set aside and this simple mixture begins to ferment. The warm water wakes the dormant yeast and, in turn, the yeast begins to feast on the flour’s natural sugars. The additional sugar is optional, but helps to accelerate the process and contribute to deeper flavors. While the sponge ferments, gluten-softening enzymes are activated and the mixture begins to foam with carbon dioxide.
Using the two-step sponge method quickly develops flavors reminiscent of sourdoughs. Meanwhile, the enzymes aid in softening the flour’s gluten structure to result in fluffier breads. I did test pita bread without the sponge method but found the resulting pita bland and disappointing. This pre-fermented sponge method doesn’t require much extra effort, but leads to pita pockets that are far superior in flavor and texture.
Check out this quick How To time-lapse for making the sponge for this recipe!
How Does Pita Get a Pocket?
That magical little pocket in pita bread is created by steam that gets trapped in the baking dough. When the thinly-rolled dough hits your hot baking stone, the dough’s additional moisture quickly turns to steam. When done correctly, that steam causes the dough to expand in the oven and creates a perfect little pocket! That stuff-able pocket is a distinguishing trait that separates pita from other styles of flatbread. Pita pockets are perfect for filling with döner kebabs, deli meats, fresh veggies, fries (hey, they do it in Israel!) and an assortment of other spreads and fillings. Pita pockets make for the tastiest on-the-go lunches and are the best vessel for endless variations of grab-and-go street foods.
Why Did my Pita Bread Not Puff?
Let me guess. You’ve tried a dozen other pita recipes and are baking some delicious, albeit thick, flatbreads. Nevertheless, time and time again your pita fails to puff and you are left completely pita pocket-less. I’ve been there! In fact, I tested this recipe seven, yes SEVEN, times before I discovered the foolproof pita pocket method. If you follow us on Instagram (and, please do!), you saw my several failed pita attempts first hand. From bland, to chewy, to super thick, to too crispy... Eventually, I discovered the sponge (see above!) and achieved delicious flavor. But, still, no puff.
I was hellbent on getting that perfect pocket, so, I kept reading and researching and trying again (and again). Then, at the last moment, our dear friend (and uber-talented Chef), Brian Weber, came to our (virtual) assistance. The very next day... viola! Perfectly Puffed Pita Pockets! Check out all our best advice (including Chef Brian’s incredible tips) below! Follow these easy guidelines and, we promise, fluffy pita (with pockets!) are in your very near future! Better than your favorite sundress.
Tips, Tricks & Troubleshooting Troublesome Pita Pockets
Mixing, Proofing and Shaping
- Keep your dough moist! - Sorry, if you hate that word - moist. Hear us out, though. Tacky dough is essential to creating pita pockets. That additional liquid creates the steam needed to puff your pita. Resist the urge and avoid adding additional flour when kneading or shaping.
- Shape your portions into round, taut balls. - This was Chef Brian’s advice that changed the game for us! As he explained, creating surface tension on the dough’s exterior is KEY to creating pita pockets with enough structure to puff appropriately!
- Proof your pita dough twice! - If you make yeast doughs often, you know active dry yeast benefits from a bulk and a secondary fermentation. (If you don’t bake yeast doughs regularly, now you know!) For some reason, many pita recipes omit proper proofing... we’re not sure why but... we’re telling you - two proofs are better than one.
- Flip your proofed pita portions! - After the bulk fermentation, your dough is portioned, shaped to rounds and left to rise for a second time - much like a dinner roll. Unlike a dinner roll, however, halfway through the secondary proof (rise) FLIP each portion of dough. This flip helps to evenly distribute the gasses and create pockets right in the center of your soon-to-be pita bread.
- Roll your dough THIN! - Too thick and your pita can’t puff! Pita rolled to a 3 - 4 millimeter thickness is perfect.
Baking, Storing & Serving
- Get your oven HOT! - More Chef Brian advice: Get the oven super hot! The goal is to create your steam filled pocket quickly, to avoid crisping your bread. (Soft pita is where it’s at.) 500 - 550 degrees Fahrenheit (260 - 288 degrees Celsisu) is optimal.
- Do NOT open that oven door! - Oven temperatures plummet everytime the door is opened. Go ahead, and turn on the oven light but NO peeking through an open door! We recommend working quickly and tossing your pita onto a hot stone, while closing the oven door behind it. (Please, be safe! We’re constantly covered in careless oven burns and we do not want that for you. If you have a baker’s peel... Now is the time!)
- Bake pita on a PREHEATED stone or cast iron pan. Pita bakes best on extremely hot surfaces. We like to use a pizza stone but , if you don’t have one, a cast iron skillet would work well, also. Preheat the stone or skillet at your oven’s hottest temperature for, at least, one hour.
- Cover your fresh baked pita pockets with a clean, dry, dish towel. Covering your fresh-from-the-oven pita with a cloth will help steam the exterior of the bread and keep your pita fluffy and irresistibly soft. Keep pita covered and serve warm, whenever possible.
- Serve pita warm! Pita is best when served warm! Serve fresh from the oven, whenever possible! Otherwise, microwave pita pockets for 10 - 30 seconds. If a day or two old, wrap pita in a damp kitchen towel and bake at 300 degrees Fahrenheit for 5 - 10 minutes, or until revived. If staled, consider baking pita into chips! See text below!
- Store pita in an airtight container for 1 - 2 days. Otherwise, freeze. Wrap tightly in plastic and freeze pita up to two weeks.
Spice it Up! Seasoning Suggestions
Pita is fantastic plain-Jane style. However, if you’d like to spice it up - let’s do it! We recommend mixing dried spices or fresh herbs with olive oil and brushing the seasoning on the pita dough, before baking. Then, bake the pita with the oil-and-seasoning-side-up to prevent burning. Oil-seasoned pita may not puff as beautifully as plain pita - but the seasoned variations are delicious accompaniments for hummus, baba gahnoush (Lebanese eggplant dip), labne yogurt, muhammara (Israeli pepper dip), and more!
For crispy pita chips, as mentioned below, bake the pita bread plain. Then, once baked, split, slice, and season with olive oil, as desired. Follow the instructions above, to crisp the oil-seasoned chips in a hot oven.
Our Favorite Seasonings and Spice Blends
- Sea Salt - Simple and delicious! Try a flaky salt like Malden or Fleur de Sel.
- Garlic Oil - Mincing some garlic into olive oil and brushing it on the pita dough will add more flavor and pair well with many savory dishes. Add a sprinkle of ground Aleppo pepper for a dash of heat!
- Cumin - Cumin spice pairs well with many North African, Middle Eastern and Mediterranean flavors. Chef Brian adds a teaspoon, or so, right to his dough!
- Za’atar - This popular Middle Eastern spice blend can be found in most spice stores and is our FAVORITE pita pocket seasoning. Our blend is made of wild thyme, sesame, sumac and lemon zest but others may also contain oregano and marjoram.
- Sesame Seeds - A classic addition that goes great with most Middle East and Mediterranean flavors.
- Harissa - This North African chili spice will bring the heat!
- Fresh Herbs - Fresh herbs can transform your pita to a well-paired savory side-dish. Try thyme, parsley or lavender to fit with more European-inspired dishes.
- Cinnamon Sugar - Pita bread doesn’t have to be savory! Use vegetable oil (or melted butter!) for a more neutral flavor and dress fresh-baked pita with cinnamon sugar for a sweet treat! For pita chips, toss the already-crispy chips in cinnamon sugar, after baking, to avoid burning the sugar in the oven.
Serving Suggestions: What Goes Good with Fresh-Baked Flatbread?
Fresh baked pita pockets are the perfect pairing for SO many dishes! Here are our favorite uses for this Perfectly Puffed Pita Pocket recipe. Other ideas? We love it! Be sure to let us know in the comments, below the recipe!
- Flatbread or Chip for dips, spreads, mezze platters or charcuterie boards! Hummus is the classic go-to, but don’t stop there! Pita is a blank canvas that easily pairs with endless dips, sauces or spreads!
- Side Dish for soups, stews, curries or hearty braised dishes. Sop it up! Try it with our Roasted Parsnip Soup with Gremolata Croutons for a healthy, hearty (easily made vegan) meal!
- Seasoned Chips for snacking! Sweet, savory, you name it! Homemade pita chips are often healthier (and tastier!) than store-bought potato chips! Keep reading to check out the instructions below to learn how to transform soft, fluffy pita into satisfyingly crunchy chips!
- Pita Pizza! The kids (and kids at heart!) will love this one! Top with sauce and cheese, as desired, and broil to golden perfection!
- Sandwiches, Wraps and Grab-and-Go Vessels! Falafel! Shwarma! Gyros! Souvlaki! Deli Meats! Veggies! Fries! The list goes on... Pita pockets are destined for stuffing with delicious meats, cheeses and veggies! Get creative!
- Salads - Crispy pita bread can be crumpled over salads in lieu of croutons! These crunchy additions go great in Lebanese-style fattoush salads with cucumbers, radishes, tomatoes and a sprinkle of tart sumac!
How do You Make Homemade Pita Chips?
Soft, fluffy pita is easily converted into delicious, crunchy pita chips! Pita chips can be seasoned any way you like! We love pita chips with garlic powder, taco seasoning or cinnamon sugar!
- Firstly, preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit (204 degrees celsius). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Then, split pita bread in half, around the pocket. Pita chips will crisp better if they are thinner. So, open the pocket like you would for stuffing the pocket - but, keep going! Split the pita bread around the perimeter so that you have two, equal rounds.
- Next, slice the pita halves into six or eight triangles. With a sharp knife, cut the pita bread like you would a pie.
- After that, toss the pita triangles in olive oil (or melted butter) and whatever seasonings you like! Arrange the oiled pita triangles in a single layer on your prepared baking sheet.
- Finally, bake the pita triangles until golden brown and crisp. About 8 - 15 minutes. Fresh-baked pita will require a longer baking time. Drier, staling pita will crisp up faster. So, watch closely!
- Now, allow pita to cool (at least, slightly!) and start snacking! Serve golden pita chips with as many dips and spreads as desired!
Share Your Success!
These foolproof, Perfectly Puffed Pita Pockets are sure to become a household favorite for fresh-baked bread. This pita bread is the perfect recipe for novice bakers or seasoned artisans, alike! This versatile pita recipe pairs beautifully with dozens of apps, snacks, lunches and dinners. When this recipe makes its way to your table, be sure to drop us a star rating! And, as always, mention @foodworthfeed or tag #foodworthfeed in your Instagram posts and stories! We’d love to feature you on social! We love having a seat at your table, you’ll always have one at ours. Cheers!
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